Gerry Anderson dies: “We have lost our jester…”

I remember coming home in the summer of 1988 to work on a number of summer schemes in Belfast, Lisburn, Ballynahinch and Holywood with an English colleague who’d never been to Northern Ireland before.

My one insistence of the day was that I had to listen to Gerry Anderson at 10.30. It was like shot of something powerful and good in the midst of a less than good situation.

Gerry’s was more than gallows humour. It was a light drop of oul dacency, in a space and at time when and where people seemed almost determined not to think the best of each other.

In that regard, his phone-in was a safe house in the midst of the deepening madness of the late Troubles. He used wit and humour and his own ‘mongrel’ family background to traverse the communal faultlines of Northern Ireland.

His raucous style didn’t suit the English audience of Radio 4, and his sojourn there, Anderson Country, only lasted a year of middle class outrage at his upsetting the local tone with Ulster banter.

He returned to do what he did best, which was not just to be funny on the radio, but to draw his listeners out in conversations that could last up to half an hour, giving them as much of the spotlight as he took for himself.

It enabled him to raise new stories which told it like it was and stay that familiar Ulster fist of criticism by making his would be critics complicit in the joke.

It helped too that he had a hinterland experience that stretched back to before the Troubles. As such he was never entirely bound by its narrow and begrudging rules of grammar.

As Malachi O’Doherty put it on Facebook this morning “We have lost our jester”.

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  • MainlandUlsterman

    I went through phases with him but ended up liking him a lot – almost as much as he loved himself ;-) – always something interesting and a bit different when he was on and he cut through a lot of the crap you get used to hearing. Just when I thought he was lulling into folksiness, he’d often say something jarring and funny. Far too young to go.

  • carl marks

    Gerry was marmite radio; you either loved him or hated him. I loved his show, he was intelligent and smart, witty generally good craic. The man had a great way with people he’s going to be missed.

  • mickfealty

    Do watch the embedded video… It’s a classic!!

  • MalikHills

    I remember one evening in the early 1990s tuning in to BBC Radio 4 and being surprised to hear a mellow, erudite Anderson doing a program about his life in Northern Ireland.

    He came across very differently from his morning radio show and was a real pleasure to listen to (I could take or leave his morning show, I’m more of a Sean Coyle fan). It appears he did a few of these pieces and I suspect that might have lain behind Radio 4’s decision to give him an afternoon slot where he adopted his regular persona, which just didn’t seem to work.

    In fairness Anderson said his ratings were up on the previous occupant of the slot and I don’t usually play the chip-on-the-shoulder card but I do believe there was an element of anti-Irish racism behind the campaign to get him off Radio 4. The Daily Telegraph Home Counties set can be very tolerant of all sorts of classes and races but the Bog Irish can still get their goats up.

    Do read his books, extremely well-written and very honest.

    RIP Gerry.

  • Chris Browne

    His voice was a fixture throughout my childhood. In latter years I became a huge fan, never missing the show in my time as a student and catching up on the iPlayer if I missed it. The podcast was an eventual revelation for many, opening him up to new fans – however the full show was always best for me, we shared a similar taste in music (although he did still pick a few questionable numbers).

    I am not a fan of Nolan, but he was brilliant yesterday. He got the tone right and paid a great tribute to Gerry. He put it best when he said that he was the best broadcaster BBC Northern Ireland will ever see. That is not an overstatement, it’s just the way it is.

  • Niall Chapman

    That video is fantastic, I was only able listen to the audio with headphones because I’m in an office, so just got a few strange looks as I was laughing my head off